Win by French moderate Macron spurs rally in Asian markets

MarketsAssociated Press

Asian shares rose Monday after Emmanuel Macron, a centrist would-be reformer and supporter of the European Union, triumphed over far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 added 2.3 percent to finish at 19,895.70, reflecting investor relief over the outcome.

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The euro, shared by France and 18 other countries, was trading at $1.0980. It had edged up 0.1 percent to $1.1013 in late Sunday trading in Europe. The dollar rose to 112.73 yen from 112.59 yen late Friday in Asia.

Other Asian stock markets were also higher, cheered by the results.

South Korea's Kospi added 1.9 percent to 2,284.76. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.6 percent to 5,870.90 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.5 percent to 24,597.46.

The Shanghai Composite lost 0.5 percent to 3,086.62, however, on weaker than expected trade data for April.

France's CAC 40 index rose last week to its highest since early 2008 — before the worst of the global financial crisis — in anticipation of the result.

While Macron's win had been widely anticipated, the election cast a long shadow over the continent as Le Pen, had wanted France to exit the 28-nation EU, with potentially catastrophic consequences for the region and its euro currency.

"Europe dodges a bullet here," said Paul Christopher, head global market strategist for Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

Analysts said strong jobs data in the U.S., released late last week, added to the cheer in Asia. Attention was turning to other regional economic indicators, they said.

"A sense of normalcy has returned to the forex desks this morning as the final round of the French elections had the expected," said Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA.

The rise in the euro was not as strong as it was after Macron's victory in the first round of the presidential vote. Investors seem to have largely expected the outcome and polls showed him consistently in the lead by a wide margin going into the second round.

But analysts say the result lifts a huge amount of uncertainty for the European economy, which is just picking up some momentum after years of financial crises and stagnation.

"This is certainly positive for the European economy," said Jacob Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

The possibility of a Le Pen presidency had unnerved some after polls had failed to accurately read the popular sentiment that led to Britain's vote last year to leave the EU and the election of President Donald Trump. Le Pen's proposals included holding a referendum on EU and euro membership — and experts agree the euro wouldn't have survived the departure of its founding member and second-biggest economy.

"Macron's election offers stability to Europe's single market, and strengthens the EU's position in the upcoming Brexit negotiations," Margaret Yang of CMC Markets said in a commentary.

"With another area of political uncertainty clarified, investors will now focus on corporate earnings and the cyclical economic tail wind brought about by the broad recovery in global trading," she said.

Macron has vowed to strengthen the EU and euro and to reform France's economy, which hasn't grown quickly enough in recent years to bring unemployment decisively below 10 percent. He will face a stern test in trying to do so as he will likely struggle to put together a majority in parliament for his year-old party in parliamentary elections next month.

Wall Street finished last week at record highs. The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 0.4 percent to 2,399.29. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.3 percent to 21,006.94 and the Nasdaq composite jumped 0.4 percent to 6,100.76, beating a record it set earlier this week.

In energy trading, U.S. crude oil gained 34 cents to $46.56 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It had jumped 70 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $46.22 a barrel in New York late Friday. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, added 22 cents to $49.32 barrel in London.


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